Jim Koch Sounds the Alarm

Boston Beer Company jump-started America’s craft beer movement and made its founder, Jim Koch, a billionaire. But in a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Koch warns craft’s run might be coming to an end.

Koch calls industry consolidation the number-one culprit. In 2008, federal antitrust regulators not only approved the MillerCoors joint venture, but they also gave the green light to InBev’s acquisition of Anheuser-Busch. That left two brewing giants in control of 90 percent of America’s domestic beer protection. Making matters worse, the federal government allowed the big brewers to buy craft breweries—and then fail to disclose that they were the new owners.

Those mega-mergers resulted in higher beer prices and pink slips for American workers, as well as consolidation among distributors. Today, in most markets, more than 90 percent of all beer is controlled by distributors who depend on either A-B InBev or MillerCoors for most of their volume. Those distributors have considerable power regarding promotion, shelf space, and marketing support for the brands they handle—and they have an incentive to give preferential treatment to craft brands the big brewers now own.

According to Koch, the key to saving American craft beer is stricter antitrust enforcement. He names China and South Africa as countries whose regulators imposed strict conditions on big brewery mergers to protect their domestic economies.

“I’m Tom Dibblee and I’m a Bud Light Lime Drinker”

Tom Dibblee, of the LA Review of Books, has a confession to make. He enjoys Bud Light Lime because “it allows me to shed the burden of sophistication, and it restores beer to what it once was, when I was young–a tart nectar that makes me happy.”

Dibblee makes his admission as part of his amusing review of Bitter Brew, William Knoedelseder’s account of the rise and fall of Anheuser-Busch. Knoedelseder mentions BLL just once in his book, but the beer is central to Dibble’s review.

August Busch IV was a disaster as CEO, and was shown the door by InBev after it acquired A-B. By February 2010, he was “holed up in his mansion, grievously addicted to drugs, gripped by paranoia, beset by hallucinations, and armed with hundreds of high-powered weapons, including several .50-caliber machine guns.” But before falling into the abyss, August IV suggested that the company branch out into novelty beverages. All but one flopped: Bud Light Lime, which, in 2008, led to Anheuser-Busch’s best summer sales in years.

The Friday Mash (For the Boys Edition)

On this day in 1941, the United Service Organizations, Inc., was created. During World War II, the USO presented hundreds of thousands of shows featuring the greatest names in entertainment history. Those shows were brought back to life in the 1991 film For the Boys, which starred Bette Midler.

And now…The Mash!

We begin at the University of California, Davis, which has opened a $20 million winery, brewery and food processing complex. The facility also has earned a LEED Platinum certification.

Jack Curtin reviews Dethroning the King, an account of InBev’s successful hostile takeover of Anheuser-Busch. He points out that A-B committed a series of blunders that led to its being taken over.

Prague’s U Fleku is more than 500 years old, and is the world’s oldest continually-operating brewpub. Charlie Papazian caught up with Ivan Chramosil, who’s been its brewmaster for 40 years.

Evan Hansen of Underground Detroit magazine introduces his readers to lambic. Did you know that a beer with only 10 percent lambic can be labeled “lambic”?

It appears that something Wicked this way will no longer come. Gambrinus Company has announced that it will stop distribution of Pete’s Wicked Ale on March 1.

Martyn Cornell, the Zythophile, has a bone to pick with RateBeer.com’s best beer list. Actually, his target is extreme-beer fans, who’ve voted so many high-gravity beers onto the list.

Finally, a quiz question. What do Apollo, Boadicea, Citra, and El Dorado have in common? Time’s up. They’re new varieties of hops.

The Friday Mash (Guys and Dolls Edition)

Sixty-four years ago today, Damon Runyon died. He’s best known for his short stories about Prohibition-era New York City (the musical Guys and Dolls was based on two of them). But that wasn’t Runyon’s only claim to fame. He was also a sportswriter, whose work earned him induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. So if you’re reading this inside a sports bar, be sure to raise a glass to him.

And now…The Mash!

We begin across the pond, where Belvoir Brewery has given new meaning to “beer and cheese pairing.” It is about to release Blue Beer, which is made with Stilton cheese.

You know your beers have won a following when they turn up as a clue on the New York Times crossword puzzle. The clue was “Moose Drool or Trout Slayer” from Big Sky Brewing Company,

Draft magazine focuses on 12 breweries to watch in 2011. Most are in cites not normally associated with craft brewing, including Salt Lake City, Indianapolis, and Houston. The magazine’s “City to Watch” is equally surprising: Huntsville, Alabama.

You might have enjoyed a Breakfast Stout, but have you ever gone to a beer breakfast? Lew Bryson says you just missed one. It took place at the Sly Fox in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.

Stan Hieronymus, who blogs at Appellation Beer, reviews Dethroning the King, by Julie McIntosh. The book is about InBev’s takeover of Anheuser-Busch.

The National Beer Wholesalers Association has released a video commemorating National Repeal Day. As in repeal of Prohibition, December 5, 1933.

FInally, Dubai’s Burj-al-Arab calls itself a “seven-star hotel,” but Martyn Cornell, the Zythophile, is unimpressed with its beer list. On it is Corona at $15.50 (U.S.); or if you’re a real snob, Budweiser, Peroni, Becks, and Heineken, at $17.80.

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